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The Boy in the Temple, #1

Art: William Holman Hunt, oil 1890

“And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:49

His parents are somewhat frantic. Jesus is missing. He can’t be found in the pilgrimage crowd journeying back to Nazareth. The travel time from their home back to Jerusalem would have taken several days on foot, a trip of over 60 miles.

They find the youth in the Temple, and it’s there they questioned His decision to stay with the rabbis. Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary are somewhat astonished. Why did He call the Temple, “my Father’s house?” Why did the teachers of the Law find Him so compelling?

A lot of boys would’ve found a more exciting place ‘to hang out.’

What we learn I suppose is the primacy of the things of God. Jesus has a definite connection to the place God dwells, His presence, and the rest God gives to each one who will only come. He is waiting for ‘ignited desire’ for each believer to come. Our hearts are now His home.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

(1 Cor. 6:19-20)

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Plain Talk, #79

14 “So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

John 11:14-15, (context, vv. 1-44)

It’s not easy to speak concisely. Our world is filled with overly careful verbiage, and confusing talk. Often we will complicate things to make them palatable, and comfortable for others. As a ‘writer-wannabe’, I’m aware of bringing confusion when I complicate words, sentences and paragraphs.

Not that being careful and diplomatic is wrong. The book of Proverbs, over and over, makes it clear that our words are powerful things, and they must be carefully watched. What we say, to be astringently honest, communicates what is hidden in our hearts.

Jesus is God’s megaphone in a world that has grown deaf.

The real thing is not what we say, but what we do. Jesus intends to do the impossible. He is going to raise the dead, which has never, ever been done. Jesus intends to simply speak out, simply, and life will come to Lazarus again.

Just as he spoke plainly here to his disciples–he will speak simple words to Lazarus as well. Jesus’ words–very plain and quite simple–will bring life to a body that has laid on a stone slab for four days. The decomposition was already quite advanced. His body, “stinketh.” (John 11:39, KJV).

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.”

John 11:43-44

Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus created the world by words–it is said that he holds the world together by his words. And when he speaks, (or commands), definite things are going to happen.

He’s God’s megaphone in a world that has grown deaf. All that he says is spiritually amplified over the mumbling’s of a confusing darkness. When he stands and speaks to Lazarus, life returns. Jesus is clearly heard in the deep corridors of death, and what he speaks is going to happen.

“And because of his words many more became believers.”

John 4:41, NIV

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Do You Hear Him? #75

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Luke 10:27-28, (context vv. 22-30)

Being secure means being fully in Christ’s hand. Some might argue about the doctrine of Eternal Security vs. becoming apostate, and losing one’s salvation. Whatever your position on this, I trust that you are his–and you really do hear his voice.

In 1982, I sat in a theology class where the teacher taught the opposite of security. He believed and taught that the believer, if he wasn’t careful, could lose their eternal life. Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about this–I confess my motive was concern, mixed with fear and doubt.

This particular passage both bothered, and comforted me. Many think that these verses are the clearest statement to guarantee a believer’s safety. And that our salvation could never be lost.

This passage declares that salvation is a gift, and it’s not something that is somehow earned. It can’t be attained by my effort. Salvation is Jesus’ precious and holy handout to the undeserving, it’s not a reward for good behavior.

Jesus makes it very clear, “they will never perish.” He gives a security to each who authentically believes him.

“No one can snatch them out of my hand.” In the original Greek (the language used in the original text) the word for “snatch” means to rescue, or to seize by force. The old KJV uses the word “pluck.” These are all very potent words and thoughts–we dare not minimize them to fit our wishes or personal theology.

For the most part, I think that all of this is contingent on a single phrase–“my sheep hear my voice.” Perhaps hearing is the critical part of this verse. The true believer is a listener, it’s what sets us apart–we hear his voice, and he seems to be always speaking to the sincere seeker.

Do you really hear him? Are you truly listening? The Word and quiet prayer really become your way to know, and discover what he wants you to do, today.

“God’s voice is still and quiet, and easily buried under an avalanche of clamour.”

     Charles Stanley

 

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The Whole Truth, #65

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32, (context, vv. 31-47)

There’re several ideas in these two verses which absolutely have to be considered. They can’t be ignored, they’re essentially bedrock. I’m convinced the most astonishing things about God’s Word is that it’s alive. It’s far more than stark dark letters of black ink on white pages. It really breathes and moves in each of us who want to follow Jesus.

The Bible is alive–it has a heartbeat. It simply wants us to get out our spiritual stethoscope and listen.

We sometimes get confused about the word “abide.” It seems like a tricky word, and of course we’ll insist on complicating it, but if he is calling us to follow Jesus – the Word made flesh–means we’ll abide, (to live in, to dwell in, to make your home there) –in that Word. Disciples sometimes won’t do this out of fear of man, or they can’t because of unconfessed sin, or politics, or religion, or philosophy. They’ll become confused about this, and it’s painfully obviously to all.

Imagine, you find a lost wallet in the parking lot. Now what?

You open it to find ten 100 dollar bills! I’m convinced at that certain moment, the Spirit will speak what’s true. You really can rationalize it–possibly this is definitely God’s gift to me (!), or maybe we might look for the driver’s license in order to return this lost wallet to its owner. But it’s a moment of truth, and all of heaven is standing on tiptoe to see what you will do next.

The truth will set you free.” Keeping the money, and ditching the wallet seems like a fine idea at the time, but it’s essentially a seductive trap. If you rationalize this, at this at this point, you’ll fail his test. Your freedom is at stake. What’s true, and what the Spirit is saying, is well on its way of being discarded. (A thousand dollars after all would truly be a blessing? Maybe I’ll tithe off it?)

And maybe the Holy Spirit wants to see what’s really in our hearts, and just maybe a minor angel planted it there, just to show everyone what see what we will do. And maybe it was accidentally dropped, which is probably the case. But what are you going to do? The longer you wait, the trickier it seems to get.

Are you abiding in the words of Jesus? He’s calling you to follow him–and he wants you to become intimate with the real truth, which is really him in the flesh. Disciples who are living out the life of Jesus will act like him. As “abiders” we’ll insist on making his decisions, and becoming truthful people–even if it seems like a disaster.

“Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself.”

Augustine

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The Voice, #51

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 

Matthew 17:5, (context, vv. 1-8)

Sometimes God uses a megaphone. At least whenever I read this account I always have that impression. Perhaps, like these three disciples, we are being led into these situations were the voice of God becomes extremely audible. When we do hear Him it occasionally freaks us out.

The disciples collided with God’s glory and it altered them permanently. Peter recalled these many years later in 2 Peter 1:17-18–

“…when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Peter remembers the voice. At the end of his life that is what amazed him–Peter couldn’t forget, it was something he couldn’t shake. He had seen astonishing things that afternoon, profound things; but at the end he recalls that voice. When we read this, we realize that it wasn’t the visuals so much as it that voice that terrified the three of them.

*****

“Rise, and have no fear.”

Matthew 17:7

Peter is not penalized for his distressing behavior on the mountain. I’ve read this passage over the years, and every time (without fail) I’m totally embarrassed by Peter. He is completely out of mesh here–he acts like clown. He hasn’t a clue.

When the three hear the voice they fold–they are terrified to the point of collapse. The Greek word is “phobos,” the root of our word phobia. This is intense, knee-shaking, face-falling fear. (“Loose bowels” is just slightly more intense.)

Jesus steps right into this situation. He understands completely. He may have even smiled? He reaches to His own and lifts them up. “Don’t be afraid anymore” can be very comforting to hear, especially coming Jesus.

“The Bible is God’s voice, in print.”

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